It's fair to say that Google's messaging services are in a bit of a heap at the moment, and to make matters worse, Hangouts is removing its SMS capacities. Hangouts version 18 is now being rolled out, but doesn't appear to incorporate any functional changes.
However, the new update includes code which will inform users that "SMS is moving out of Hangouts," and suggest that they switch to a different SMS app. 9to5Google suggest that the company will flip a server-side switch in a few days removing all SMS functionality, with the exception of Google Voice.
This news comes after Google had been trying to push the corporate aspect of Hangouts with the newly-launched Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. We were first made aware of the impending SMS removal when a Reddit contributor shared an email sent by Google.
Last year, we announced several improvements to the most popular features of Google Hangouts, such as the new video meetings experience and better group chat messaging. As part of that ongoing effort, we will be removing carrier SMS text messaging from Hangouts on Android after May 22, 2017.
On Thursday night, the G Suite administrator with the username thereisonlyoneme said they received this email, confirming that there would be "no more carrier texting from Hangouts" after May 22. However, the tech giant stated that SMS messages sent from Google Voice would remain after that date, and that Google Voice "will continue to be supported."
The email went on to say that in-app notices would begin to appear from March 27. However, if you don't use SMS in Hangouts, you will not see said notice, as it won't apply to you. Additionally, Project Fi users, whose SMS messages are routed through Google Voice, will not be impacted by this change.
Users will be prompted to choose another default messaging app already installed on their phone. If none exists, they will be directed to the Google Play store to find a new SMS messaging app. Choosing a new messaging app will not impact existing SMS messages. All messages will be accessible in the new messaging app.
The news comes only months after Google started pushing the Rich Communication Services (RCS) Universal Profile, which hopes to replace SMS with a feature-rich, iMessage-like experience.
The aim of Google's RCS Universal Profile push is to get all major players on board for a rich texting experience from any phone, which would allow you to send Hangouts-like messages from your regular phone number.
To accomplish this, the tech giant bought a startup called Jibe in 2015, which was focused on the same issue. From there, they created the Universal Profile and incorporated the tech into the Android Messages app, so now, it's just a matter of getting the carriers to implement it before RCS messages will be a reality.
And it looks like Google's efforts to unify mobile messaging seem to be working: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and many international carriers are all on board with the Universal Profile already, though some are still in the process of implementing it.